Sunday, 29 August 2010

Walking (Off) In a Cabrera Wonderland

As I didn't have the chance to watch the Arsenal game live yesterday (a 2-1 away win for the mighty Gunners) I am going to forgo writing a match report about the match. Instead, today I am going to write a little piece about one of my favourite athletes in recent memory, the one and only Asdrubal Cabrera. And it seems an appropriate time to do so, considering his momentous feat last night; but we'll get to that in a bit.

Cabrera hails from Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela, and is quite possibly the only athlete I really know to hail from the country. The young shortstop was acquired by the Tribe in 2006 from the Seattle Mariners, and eventually made his Indians debut on the 8th of August 2007 against the Chicago White Sox. Despite being a natural shortstop, he made his big league splash at second base in the 2007 season and performed admirably, helping the Indians to a 96-66 record, the best in baseball that year (joint with the Red Sox). He became particularly adept at hitting in the later innings, batting .375 after the 7th inning and beyond. He started the 2008 season at second base again, as Jhonny Peralta still held onto the position at short.

It was on May 12th that Cabrera grabbed the attention of the national media. Facing the Blue Jays at Progressive Field, Asdrubal turned the 14th unassisted triple play in MLB history. The unassisted triple play is probably the rarest defensive play in all of baseball, so it was quite an achievement for our boy. This guy went to visit Asdrubal a few weeks after the event, and you can see the details of what occurred in the video.

Despite his historic play, unfortunately our hero struggled to maintain his 2007 form and was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo mid-way through the season, as his performances at the plate were not up to scratch, batting just .184 with 14 RBIs after 52 games. However he didn't let the demotion get him down and battled back to the majors in July and went on to play in 114 games for the Indians that year, batting a respectable .259 after his early struggles. Cabrera maintained his consistency throughout the 2009 season as well, managing to play in 131 games as well as leading the club with a .308 batting average that year. Not only did Cabrera find his swing at the plate, but he also established himself as one of the top defensive players in the league. After Casey Blake was traded in 2008, Peralta vacated his position at shortstop to fill in at third base, enabling Asdrubal to finally play in his natural position every day, where he's quickly become one of the best shortstops in the majors.

For 2010, new Indians skipper Manny Acta promoted Cabrera to the leadoff position in an attempt to make the most of Asdrubal's ability to get on base and set the table for Sizemore, Choo and Hafner to knock him in. In typical Tribe fashion, injuries have hindered Acta's plans to become reality, and Cabrera became one of the many casualties as well. In a series against the Rays, Asdrubal collided with Peralta when both men attempted to field a groundball by Hank Blalock. Cabrera was forced to leave the game with a fractured left forearm, and was immediately placed on the disabled list, and has missed a big chunk of this rather miserable season as a result.

However, my favourite player has returned from injury and is slowly finding his form again, as he regains the strength in that left arm. And there is no better example to highlight Cabrera's return than last night. Asdrubal hit his first career walk-off home run against the Royals yesterday, capping a 4-3 win for the Indians through 10 innings. It was a beautiful shot over the right field wall, and you could see Cabrera knew it was gone the moment he hit it. He's not known for his home runs, in fact they are a pretty rare sight for the 24 year old, but you have to love it when your guy hits a beauty like he did last night.

I've been a fan of Cabrera for a couple of years now (or "As-Cab" as I like to call him sometimes - lame, I know). His slick defensive skills are exceptional, he comes up with some real gems, regularly robbing batters of singles through the infield with his diving stops and quick reflexes to get the ball to first. Cabrera is my kind of player, a grinder, and I'm all about the defense so it's natural he's become my favourite Indian in such a short time. Here's hoping he enjoys more individual success in what's become another lost season for the Tribe. Asdrubal is undoubtedly one of the centre-pieces of this Cleveland team, along with Choo and Grady et al, and I'm hoping he can remain a member of the Tribe for a long, long time. I'll be rooting for him anyway, whatever happens.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

That Time Of Year Again

On the eve of the NFL season (well, not eve, but we are close now) it's that time of year again. Fantasy Football is underway, and my team is ready to battle it out for another year. Now readers who think I am referring to that terrible excuse that is the Barclays Premier League Fantasy Football are mistaken; I am not talking about that, and anyway that is not really the same thing - for a start any participant can select any player they like, so most teams in a single league always have the Rooneys, Drogbas, Fabregas' etc. I don't really see the point in it to be fair, when its structured like that. It's not really a game at all.

I'm talking about the real Fantasy Football, the NFL, where I draft my own players and manage them over an entire season. I hand-pick my guys, and it's tough luck if I don't get someone I had my eye on. Them's the breaks kid. With my NFL chums over at, we are entering another season, each striving towards the ultimate goal... The w00tbowl. This year I was given the 6th overall pick, out of 14 players, so every other round I had the 9th pick (we reverse the order every other round, geddit?). In light of this, here are the results of my draft for the 2010 season:

1) Frank Gore, RB (SF)
2) Larry Fitzgerald, WR (ARI)
3) Ryan Grant, RB (GB)
4) Joe Flacco, QB (BAL)
5) Brent Celek, TE (PHI)
6) Pierre Garcon, WR (IND)
7) Mohamed Massaquoi, WR (CLE)
8) San Fransisco 49ers DEF
9) Matthew Stafford, QB (DET)
10) Montario Hardesty, RB (CLE)
11) Greg Olsen, TE (CHI)
12) Ryan Longwell, K (MIN)
13) Denver Broncos DEF

So let's review:


Joe Flacco will be my starter, a 4th round selection. I wanted one of the more elite QBs but by the time my turn came round they were all pretty much gone and I had to settle for Flacco, who's not known as being a fantasy stud. However, Flacco has another year of experience under his belt and has a new weapon to target this season named Anquan Boldin. I'm hoping for good things from Flacco, a solid QB at least. Stafford is a great backup, who should be better this year under an improved Lions offense.

Running Backs

Probably the strongest part of my team, I should be solid at running back this season at the very least. I had trouble deciding whether to take Gore or Steven Jackson with my first pick, but I went with Gore because A) The Rams aren't very good and rely on Jackson A LOT and B) Gore has been consistent for years now and should be a safe pick. I'm not overconfident about Grant, I know he struggles at times in Green Bay but he's a starter at least and will get a lot of carries this year as long as he stays healthy; he'll be my starter in my RB/WR flex position. Hardesty is my homer pick here. I expect Jerome Harrison to start the season as number 1 in Browns town, but if Hardesty explodes onto the scene with some spectacular performances, then I have him on my team, ready and raring to go. My "sleeper" pick if you will.

Wide Receivers

Certainly the riskiest department of my squad. We all know Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the league but the problem is "Hollywood" Matt Leinart throwing to him. Can he put the ball in Fitz's hands often enough to make my selection worth it? He better do, that's all I'm saying. Garcon is a safe pick but I worry that Manning, who has so many options in Indianapolis, will overlook Garcon on certain days and I won't get the production out of him I'd like. Massaquoi had a mixed rookie campaign in Cleveland, but he's undoubtedly our top receiver for 2010 and if Delhomme connects with MoMass early on in the year, he may become my number 2 receiver sooner rather than later. Overall I reckon I might need to swing a trade or two around the league; this position could do with some strengthening.

Tight Ends

I'm pretty pleased with my selections for this position. Celek is one of the top tight ends around these days and Olsen is one of Cutler's primary targets in Chicago too. I like what I've got here and doubt I'll be chopping and changing much here.


I was away when it came around to selecting my defense, but I can't argue at all being given the 49ers. A top defensive unit they've got by the Bay, and Denver are a solid choice as my backup. However I don't expect to use the Broncos much at all, only on San Francisco's bye week I reckon.


Who really cares about the kicker position? Not a big deal when it comes to fantasy, but point are points and Ryan Longwell should get me enough.

So that's my team this year. Not great, but solid, hopefully a playoff contender. This site here has ranked my team and some "experts" have weighed in on what they think. Check it out, an interesting read for sure.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Hats Off To Theo!

Well what a difference a Walcott makes. Today's performance from young Theo was certainly some "F-you" to Mr Capello. Arsenal demolished Premier League newbies Blackpool this afternoon at the Emirates in a 6-0 romp, and Walcott was at his ruthless best.

Blackpool came into the game still high off their brilliant win over Wigan last weekend, but it was unlikely a repeat result would occur today. And the Gunners made sure there'd be no upset, as they took the lead in the 12th minute. Some beautiful Arsenal passing from Rosicky, Chamakh and Arshavin resulted in Walcott slotting the ball into the corner for a 1-0 lead. Blackpool were unlucky not be level soon after they conceded, when Gary Taylor-Fletcher wasted a great chance, his powerful header going way wide of Almunia's post. Twenty minutes later Chamakh was through on goal but was brought down and a penalty awarded. It looked like the tackle may have just been outside the box, but Blackpool defender Ian Evatt still received a red card for being the last man, and there's no real argument against his dismissal. He was nowhere near the ball and Chamakh had a clear goal opportunity so Evatt had to go; Blackpool were dead and buried when Arshavin (who actually ran today - A LOT!) converted from the spot to make it 2-0. The Tangerines still had 60 minutes to go with 10 men, and they stood no chance against Arsenal from that point on. Theo scored again five minutes before half time, with his back to goal, rifling in a neat shot to give us a three goal advantage. He was unstoppable, a danger every time he touched the ball and was rampant down the right flank - Stephen Crainey will be having nightmares tonight.

After the break, there was no mercy from Arsene Wenger's side, as Abou Diaby finished nicely from a good run by Sagna. 4-0 and the bleeding didn't stop there. Walcott continued to exude confidence and got his deserved hat trick after 58 minutes. His beautiful left footed effort found the corner of the net to make it 5-0, a lovely goal indeed. He came off a few minutes later to a standing ovation from the home fans, well deserved appreciation for a sublime performance from the Englishman. His first hat trick for the club, and I just hope this is the start of something special for Theo this year. Keep the goals coming and you'll become an Arsenal hero. Fabregas and Van Persie came on and there was no respite at all for poor Blackpool. With seven minutes left in normal time, Van Persie floated in a corner and Chamakh (who deserved a goal for a great effort today) rose high above everybody else to head home to make it 6-0 and grab his first Arsenal goal in the Premier League (but don't forget that I WAS THERE for his first ever Gunners goal at home...).

All in all a brilliant result for Arsenal, and exactly what we as fans wanted to see from the lads. Walcott will take the man of the match award of course, but credit must go to Tomas Rosicky who had a fantastic game in the centre of midfield. He was pulling the strings and making smart passes all over the pitch and we must pray he stays healthy this season, as I feel he could have a large impact on any success we achieve this campaign. I do feel a bit sorry for Blackpool; being reduced to 10 men ended any chances they had but that's football unfortunately, it doesn't always go your way. Ultimately their lack of quality showed and I think they have a long road ahead of them to ensure Premier League survival, despite their magnificent win away at Wigan (but it was Wigan after all). I'm especially happy for Theo, who hopefully silenced some of his critics this afternoon after a fine display, his best in the red and white to date. Long may this form continue!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Quietly Confident

Finally it has hit me. The NFL season is getting closer and closer and I am getting excited and ready for the new campaign. It's been months since I've paid much attention to my beloved Browns but its too hard to resist now. Pre-season is in full flow and the Browns impressed last week in Green Bay, so I'm looking for more of the same this Saturday against the Rams.

I was very uneasy about the signing of Jake Delhomme earlier this year and I know its early, but he looked very good against the Packers. I realise its just pre-season, but Jake did well to put some of the worries to rest that we Browns fans have about him. His first drive was fantastic, flashes of the Jake of old in evidence. Delhomme spread the ball well to his receivers, with Massaquoi making a couple of nice grabs and a wide open Evan Moore (who seems to catch everything) getting a quick 17 yard gain. To top off the drive, Jerome Harrison punched in from 4 yards for our first touchdown of the game. But like I said it is far too early to tell how Jake is going to pan out in a Cleveland uniform. Let's wait and see what happens when he throws his first interception - I'm hoping we don't see a return of the 2009 Delhomme, who never recovered from his mistakes and became a massive liability to Carolina's offense. However, he has another opportunity to impress against the lowly Rams on Saturday and I'm optimistic about his chances.

Another QB who impressed last weekend was Seneca Wallace, our backup QB acquired from Seattle. The playmaker was exciting to watch, and looks a dangerous tool in our offensive plans for this season. I'm excited to see what Wallace and Cribbs can do when they are on the field at the same time. Seneca left the game with 72 yards and 2 touchdowns, one a laser to Brian Robiskie in the back of the endzone, and the other a pass down the middle for new tight end Ben Watson. Exciting stuff for the Brownies.

Anyway this wasn't meant to be a game analysis of last week, just a quick piece on my Browns and the expectations we have this year. Confidence is increasing, but realistically the Browns are still a major work in progress, especially on defense, where Aaron Rodgers had his way with our secondary (although this might be a sign of how immense Rodgers is rather than how good our defense happens to be). I'm hoping I'll be able to watch some of the Rams game on Saturday night, at least staying up to watch the starters.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

New Look For New Era In Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers unveiled their new uniforms for the 2010-11 season yesterday, and damn are they a bit nice. I had a strong feeling that if Lebron were to leave the Cavs this year, then a makeover of the team's appearance would take place in an effort to put the past behind us. Well Lebron went to South Beach and now the changes are here, and I approve.

The new uni's were released to a collection of Twitter followers Tuesday evening, a "Tweet-up" as its being called. You can already purchase the new gear on the Cavs online store, and if I had the cash I would be extremely tempted to do just that. The new uniforms have unique details, the Cavaliers DNA statement: "All For One. One For All" can be seen across the inside of each jersey's collar, a nice touch. I definitely love the deep red (or "Wine") of the away jersey, and the home uniform is very smart also.

The first indications that changes were coming to the Cavs was when the team's logo had it's colours slightly altered, a bit more gold added into the mix. Next up was the floor design at the Q, a more obvious sign that change was afoot. So it was only a matter of time before the uniforms got a makeover too, and its come at exactly the right time. 2010-11's Cavs are going to look good this season, that much is assured.

Thanks for reading, all images of the new editions belong to the Cavs (obviously)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Justice Is Served

Take that Pepe Reina. That's what you get for being a dick, when you tried to humiliate my boy Cesc. Now who looks like the knob?

I was meant to write about this yesterday, less than 24 hours after the game, but I had to suddenly go to work and it messed up my plans. So here is my brief, and late, match review of Arsenal's opening game of this Premier League season, against Liverpool at Anfield. From what I can remember of Sunday's game, we didn't play very well overall. Arsenal dominated large periods of the game, where Liverpool couldn't even get out of their own half. This was encouraging, to dominate an opponent such as the mighty Liverpool. However we never looked likely to do much when we had the ball. Attacks seemed to fizzle out; Arsenal just didn't look very dangerous when we got into the final third. I don't remember us testing Reina until Rosicky had an effort saved late on in the game. Maybe it was just the first day jitters.

Now on to Joe Cole, and his red card; I think he thoroughly deserved it to be honest. The challenge was dangerous and idiotic, he was nowhere near the ball and I don't understand why Cole would make a tackle like that in such a meaningless area of the pitch. The way he lunged at Koscielny, he was practically begging to be dismissed. I don't care if its the first red he's received in his career, if you're going to be a moron and chuck yourself in like that, then you deserve whatever you get. It's just lucky Koscielny wasn't badly hurt, as I feared the worst immediately after it happened. So I was happy to see him return for the second half, as when a guy gets stretchered off he normally doesn't come back for a very long time. Unfortunately we never took advantage of having the extra man, and just a minute into the second half Liverpool took the lead. Ngog's goal was well taken, but I've heard a few say that if we had a top class keeper in goal, then Ngog doesn't score (Andy Gray is one example). I haven't watched the goal again, but my first reaction was that Almunia didn't stand much of a chance. The ball was hit right up into the top corner, and I'm not blaming Almunia at all as I don't think many keepers in the Premier League would have got to it. Manuel actually had a good game I thought, and made some very good saves throughout. However he still looked uncertain against Liverpool's set pieces, flapping at thin air on a number of occasions. So the jury is still out on Almunia for now, and I'd really prefer we bring in a top class number 1 shot-stopper quickly, but I have a feeling Wenger won't.

Eventually we managed to get a goal back in the very last minute, much to my relief. A simple cross came in and Chamakh managed to get to it first but could only direct the ball onto the post. Then Reina handed us the draw when he couldn't gather the ball and instead pushed it into his own net. The twat. Cheers Pepe. Roy Hodgson isn't blaming the result on his keeper, but I bloody would!

All in all, I'll settle for a point away from home, especially at Anfield. I still believe Arsenal are the better side and hopefully we can go on now and get into our flow and put together some wins. Blackpool are our next opponents, as they travel to the Emirates this Saturday. They will come into the game high off their success against Wigan, but realistically we should have no problem beating them, and I'll be a bit disappointed if we don't score multiple goals. If we lose... God, it's too terrifying to imagine.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hungary For Success

Tonight the English national football team look to put the memories of their dismal World Cup firmly behind them as they face Hungary in a friendly at Wembley. Fabio Capello will be looking to win back the support of England fans, but I imagine its going to take some effort to achieve the forgiveness he is looking for. The players and staff are expecting hostility from the Wembley faithful tonight, and they certainly deserve it. Steven Gerrard has come out and said he would boo the team this evening if he were a fan. I personally feel it is never appropriate to boo the side you are supposed to be supporting, but in England's case I might make an exception.

For me, it all starts with this apparent "Golden Generation" we have. First of all, I detest almost all of them. John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, and so on; I can't stand these players for the majority of the football year. Being an Arsenal fan, these guys are my enemies, especially Cashley. So it makes it increasingly hard for me to really attach myself to this England side when, if I'm really honest, I wouldn't give them the time of day. I still try to get behind them though, and I was as disappointed about England's collapse in South Africa as any other English football fan. But I just do not feel the same way about England as I do about Arsenal, and probably never will. Arsenal are "my team" and are unique to me, whereas I was born English and I have to share them with everybody else. So in that respect, I don't feel very close to this England team and find it rather difficult to get passionate or feel concern for this bunch of overpaid football divas.

However I will still tune in to ITV tonight to see how England get on against the Hungarians, for one reason in particular. For the first time in what feels like forever, there are some Arsenal boys in the national side. Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott have all been summoned by Fabio Capello and look set to feature at some point or another in tonight's contest. I hope Gibbs will be given the start at left back and Walcott can get a start too. I'd like Wilshere to make an appearance also, coming on at some stage to win his first England cap. I'd be over the moon if he started though! All I really want is for England to play some exciting football for once, and hopefully the Arsenal lads can help achieve this. I always struggle to watch England's friendlies - they tend to feel slow and drag on for a while, and my attention wanes rather quickly. In simple terms, England are boring to watch. But I'll make sure I hang in there and watch tonight, just to see how the Young Guns get on.

This weekend brings the return of proper football, as the Premier League resumes play for another season. Arsenal travel to Anfield to battle Roy Hodgson's Liverpool on Sunday, in a match I am quietly confident about. Looking at Liverpool's squad, even with the acquisition of Joe Cole, they really don't have much in their locker anymore and I reckon they will struggle in the battle for 4th position this year, unless they make some decent signings and get Torres and Gerrard firing on all cylinders. So I will be hoping for a good win from the Gunners, a statement of intent that we may challenge for some silverware this season (but please buy a new goalkeeper soon Arsene). If you are lucky faithful readers, I may even write a match preview closer to the time (may being the key word there - depends if I feel like it haha!).

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Exciting Day Out At The Emirates

Finally, it was my time. Yesterday was, much to my shame, my very first proper Arsenal game, as the Gunners took on AC Milan in the Emirates Cup. I have been a Gooner since I was 6 years old, a member since I was 7, but I had still never been to Highbury or the Emirates in my time as a devoted fan. There are many reasons for this; I live about 3 hours away from North London, so travelling there takes some preparation. Possibly the largest obstacle in my way has been the cost of seeing my team, as tickets in my lifetime have increased to stupid amounts and the availability is usually limited. So the cost of the ticket is pricey enough, but then I have to take into account travel expenses also; it makes attending Arsenal games a bit tricky.

However, there has been one shining light in recent years - The Emirates Cup. A pre-season tournament, only friendlies, but nevertheless a chance to see Arsenal, my beloved Arsenal, in the flesh and with most of the first team in attendance. Since it's existence at the beginning of the 07/08 season, I knew this would be my best chance to get tickets at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, I have been unable to attend the previous tournaments due to a variety of reasons: a sister's wedding, a holiday abroad etc. But this was the year, I had waited long enough, and at the age of 21 it was embarrassing that I still not been to see my team in the flesh. My Dad and I managed to get tickets back in April or May I think it was, and the excitement began to build.

We travelled up to London yesterday morning and managed to arrive at the stadium around 1 o'clock, which gave us an hour to look around and relax before the first game of the day, Celtic vs. Lyon at 2pm. I had been to the Emirates before, on a trip to London for university research purposes, but it was a totally new experience for my Dad. We came out of Arsenal station into a mass of fellow Gooners and we hit the refreshments first for some munch and lunch. I purchased the new issue of Gooner magazine and after chowing down our bacon rolls and chips (healthy right?), we made our way to the stadium. First stop was The Armoury, as a bit of browsing the official store was essential. I was very keen to purchase the new home shirt, but alas, I am but a poor student and shouldn't really be splashing the cash on a £50 shirt when I'm about to go and visit my girlfriend the very next day. After teasing myself with stuff I couldn't really afford, and my Dad leaving disappointed that the shirt he wanted wasn't in his size, we made our way up to our seats, block 91 in the Upper Tier, right on the half way line - a brilliant view. On my way I bought a programme, like I do at every sporting event I go to. The special Emirates Cup edition was very smart, worth the £5 easily.

We settled down just in time for Celtic and Lyon to begin their game, and what a brilliant game it was. Both sides had early chances, but Lyon's movement and quality passing soon came into effect as they began to dominate possession. I hardly knew any of Lyon's players, only Makoun and Michel Bastos really, but they were all very composed and confident on the ball. It was Bastos who got the first goal of the day, a rocket of a free kick that flew into the top corner, a stunner! 1-0 to Lyon, and Celtic were on the ropes early on. I was really impressed with the Scottish contingent that had travelled down to London for the day. They packed their corner of the stadium and were singing and chanting for practically the entire game, even when Lyon took a 2-0 lead through Harry Novillo's goal from a well worked move. Nothing dampened their spirits and they were rewarded for their support with a goal from new signing Gary Hooper, who volleyed home from point blank range, completely unmarked. A nice finish but he was quiet for most of the game and I was constantly wondering why he decided to choose 88 as his squad number. Apparently its because that's when he was born (snap!) and it's his lucky number... ok then. The Celtic faithful were really celebrating now, and had more to look forward to. Substitute Georgios Samaras scored at the death to steal a draw from Lyon, who to be honest chucked the game away after having a comfortable 2-0 lead. But credit to Celtic, who never gave up and got a fine result in the end.

The Arsenal and Milan players soon emerged from the tunnel and came out to warm up. I instantly started trying to identify who I could see and recognise (all of them as it turns out). Before I knew it the players vacated the pitch to get changed, and were back out ready for the start of the match. However, the Celitc fans had all left their seats and were never to return as they spent the rest of the day getting pissed at the bars. I thought it was a bit of a joke really, you pay all that money to come and see a football match, you're essentially getting one for free, and they all buggered off to get drunk leaving masses of empty red seats. It was a real shame, as apart from that corner designated for the away fans, the stadium was absolutely packed. Despite that one small gripe, nothing could ruin my mood as Milan kicked off for my first live Arsenal game. And what a first half it was.

I'm not going to provide a play by play review of the game, you can find that anywhere on the web. I'd rather comment on the players I saw and how I felt they performed on the day. A natural place to begin is with our new signings, Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny: I was very impressed with both of them. Chamakh, who scored our only goal of the game, was brilliant and I reckon we have got quite a bargain here - he looks to be quite a player. He lead the line well as a lone striker, and his touch was brilliant, confident control on the ball at all times. He showed off a few neat skills and tricks, and his goal was taken extremely well. Arshavin came alive on the wing and brought the ball into the middle before playing a perfect pass into the path of Chamakh, who controlled the ball well before stroking it past Abbiati into the bottom corner. A beautiful goal, and I can proudly say "I was there when Chamakh scored his first Arsenal goal at the Emirates". He came off in the second half to a well-deserved standing ovation, and took home the Man of the Match award. Koscielny, our new centre back from Lorient, was also superb. You can see he reads the game extremely well, making quite a few excellent interceptions and perfectly timed tackles. I had previously read he had been rather shaky this pre-season, but I only saw a very confident player yesterday who looks like he could do well with us. I hope he enjoys the same sort of year Vermaelen enjoyed last season - they could be a very good partnership now Gallas has left the club.

My other impressions of the players are as follows: First of all, it was just amazing to finally see everybody in person. I have seen Gibbs and Randall before, at a testimonial game in Dorchester a couple of years ago. Gibbs started the game at left back, and as much as I love Clichy, I think Gibbs is going to take over that position by the end of this season. He was very good yesterday, always breaking into space going forward and secure at the back. Randall came on in the second half and had two brilliant opportunities late on to win the game for us but he could not finish the game off. Samir Nasri was his usual mesmerising self, a wizard on the ball who twisted the Milan players in knots. He's had a very good pre-season and hopefully he can retain this form when the real season begins in a couple of weeks time. Arshavin put his mark on the game, with that brilliant run, shrugging off Gattuso, on his way to setting up Chamakh for the goal in the 36th minute. The little Russian is always puzzling to me. He often does nothing for long periods of the game, but will suddenly burst into action and create something from nothing. Quite the enigma is our Arshavin. Vermaelen was as dominating as always, strong at the back, and was unlucky not to score early on when his powerful header was just tipped over the bar by the Milan keeper.

Our midfield at the beginning of the game played very good together. Young Emmanuel Frimpong, playing in the Alexander Song position, was impressive and he's very physical, the kind of player Arsenal needs. He never pulled out of a tackle and was always scrapping for the ball - another promising talent for the near future. Jack Wilshere was good, as I expected him to be. He was doing his best Fabregas impression, pulling the strings in midfield, but I felt he was lacking that final pass or touch, that extra something that Cesc has, and what I'm used to watching every week. Still, Wilshere is only 18 and has plenty of time to grow into a complete player. Rosicky, on the right wing in the first half, was good in his time on the pitch, and was unlucky not to score after some good trickery by Nasri. I just like to see him make it through a game without being hurt if I'm honest! The substitutes in the second half were decent, but Milan took advantage of the dip in quality and Pato got them the draw after 76 minutes. Giving away such a soft goal was annoying, but its pre-season so not really a big deal. I felt Fabianski could have claimed Seedorf's free kick but he hesitated, and Djourou didn't deal with it either. Pato couldn't have missed, and he clipped it in to level the game. It finished 1-1, but Milan nearly stole the game when Zambrotta hit the bar in the dieing minutes.

All in all it was a brilliant day out, and everything I expected it to be for my first Arsenal match. I wasn't too disappointed I couldn't see Cesc and Van Persie, I knew they wouldn't be there after their World Cup adventures - I'll just have to catch them in the future (before Cesc goes to Barca I hope!). I also wasn't let down that we only drew after playing so well, because I knew it was only a pre-season game and it was the experience that mattered, the fact I got to see "my boys" in the flesh. We left our seats and checked out The Armoury one last time, where I was even more tempted to get the new home shirt, complete with Chamakh 29 on the back. The lines for the tube were horrendous, but I knew they would be, so I just enjoyed the experience and it was no problem at all. Now I want to go again, for a real game that means something, but I expect I'll have to be patient and save my pennies for that day. We'll see what I can get, maybe a midweek trip to a Champions League group match, or a Carling Cup/ FA Cup game. Anything I can get really! But I'm looking forward to it already.

Thanks for reading, apologies for the essay length!